Rox Does Yoga

Yoga, Wellness, and Life

Things to Do in Life December 16, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 11:30 am
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I was, just a few moments ago in the ladies room and as I often do, pondering the Things I Want to Teach My Daughter. You know, the things that if somehow she grows up without ever learning them properly I’ll feel like I completely failed at being her mom no matter how awesome she otherwise is; the things that, if she grows up knowing them, I hope will enable her to get a head start on doing a better job of life than her mom has after spending 30+ years figuring them out. So I thought I’d share. I hereby present you with a brief list of The Things I Consider Important to Do in Life (Some of Which May Overlap):

  • Love wholeheartedly and unashamedly. (This goes for loving humans, other creatures, events [like parties or Christmas], and activities [like painting or dancing or using your EZ Pass to go through the tollbooth or wearing your yellow raincoat on rainy days]. It even goes for things [like your yellow raincoat or your favorite shirt or the art bought on your honeymoon], although loving living things should always come first.) Be full of love.
  • Be kind and compassionate to all creatures, including yourself.
  • Find the work that’s yours to do in the world, and do it the very best you can.
  • Leave the world a better place than you found it.
  • Understand that you are whole and complete and wonderful just as you are right now; never stop striving to educate yourself and become a better person.
  • Have a sense of humor, particularly about all of the above.
  • The world is beautiful; be present in it and enjoy the hell out of it.

I’m probably missing some obvious things here – it’s only seven bullet points as compared to all of life, after all, and I already realize I left out gratitude but seven bullet points seems much stronger than eight, and if you’re loving and compassionate and present in the world then hopefully you are also grateful – but I feel like this covers most of the bases pretty well.

My further thought is that, while all of these points can be applied on a lifetime scale, which may be the obvious way to use them, they perhaps would be most useful when applied on a daily basis. Did you leave the world a better place than you found it today? Yes, I put up my holiday decorations and cleaned out the sink. Did you work hard, did you try to improve yourself? Yes, but I was tired and skipped my yoga practice, so maybe I can do more there tomorrow. Did you love wholeheartedly today? Were you kind and compassionate today? Well, maybe I yelled at someone this morning, so I will try to make it up to him or to pay it forward with extra love tomorrow. Did you taste your good food, appreciate the feeling of the child in your arms, and notice how blue the sky was? Yes. Yes I did. 

What are your top things to do in life?


Ashtanga time! October 1, 2013

Filed under: yoga — R. H. Ward @ 1:22 pm
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Saturday was supposed to be the first of the series of three workshops on hands-on adjustments that I signed up for. Unfortunately, the workshop was postponed indefinitely due to lack of enrollment. The instructor, Amy Nobles Dolan, offered me a complimentary ashtanga class as a consolation, and I’m so glad I went.

My first yoga class in NC, over ten years ago, was a power yoga class, and after moving to Boston I took a hatha class, but the first yoga class that stuck with me in a long-term way was ashtanga vinyasa with Gene. I took Gene’s class Tuesdays and Thursdays at lunchtime at the Harvard athletic center for two years, and often it’s still Gene’s voice I hear in my head cuing poses. Gene was fascinating – a wiry little Italian guy, 63 years old when I knew him, and a great teacher on both a physical and a spiritual level. I was one student in a room of 25 or more, so while he knew my name as one of his regulars, I doubt he’d remember me now, but I’ve always remembered him fondly. He’s the one who introduced me to the concept that yoga can improve wellness for older people, for one thing – he also taught at retirement communities. That idea really stuck with me and is one of the reasons why I wanted to become a yoga teacher myself.

Gene had been teaching yoga for years and was incredibly knowledgeable, and he liked to mix up his classes with different poses and exercises, always challenging us. Later on, I learned more about different types of yoga and found out that ashtanga has a set series of postures, and I wondered how close my experience with Gene was to the usual ashtanga class. As it turns out, my yoga practice actually has a strong solid ashtanga foundation because of Gene. I haven’t had a real ashtanga class since leaving Boston in 2006, and this class on Saturday felt fantastic, like an old friend – the sequencing of poses and emphasis in each pose were all familiar. I think Gene and Amy would get along well! In that sense alone, it was awesome to go to an ashtanga class, change up my usual practice, and challenge myself.

As a learning experience, the class was so great. Amy is an RYT-500 and it shows, she really knows her stuff. At EEY, N & J don’t choose to emphasize hands-on adjustments, so it’s been a while since I’ve had much adjustment. It’s Amy’s philosophy to make hands-on adjustments a part of her class, and with only two other students, I really benefited. Her adjustments were strong, supportive, and helpful, and gave me new perspective on poses I’ve been practicing for years. Even more, knowing my interest in adjustments, Amy always explained what she was doing so I could understand the action of the pose and why the adjustment helped that action, and she also gave me tips on how to apply the adjustment as a teacher to my own students. It was a LOT to digest, and I think I’m going to be thinking about this for a while. I can’t wait until we can reschedule the workshop, and until then, I’ll look forward to getting back to Amy’s class sometime soon!

In other news, while playing with YB last night I wanted to stretch out and took a downward dog. She loved it and crawled underneath me, and when I chaturanga’ed down to her, she laughed and crawled out and climbed on my back. I never think to practice yoga around her because I take it so seriously, but moments like this remind me that yoga can be playful and fun. I need to do this more often!

And in OTHER other news, I have my first class at Wellness on Park tonight! 7:30 pm, all-levels vinyasa. Wish me luck!


Reorganization July 2, 2013

Filed under: reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 12:16 pm
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Last week, my usual posting routine got off-schedule because on Monday I received news of a division-wide reorganization at my company. Now, at my last job I weathered three reorgs (some with more successful results than others), and I saw dozens of colleagues lose their jobs. There are two key differences between those reorgs in the past and this one now. First, in the past I faced each last-minute mandatory meeting with some anticipation and excitement, hoping I might be ones of the ones to be let go; I was so unhappy in my job that the idea of losing it sounded less like a loss and more like an opportunity for a fresh start. Ultimately, I had to find my own opportunity for a fresh start instead having one handed to me with a layoff, and I found myself here, at my new company. I’ve only been here for eight months, but I love my group and enjoy my work, and I’ve been very happy, so the idea of anything changing now is actually intimidating! And, also unlike the reorgs I witnessed before, this one involves a change that directly affects me: my job title, and probably most of my responsibilities, will remain the same, but I’ll be transferring to a different group to work on developing a new line of electronic products.

Once I got past the initial shock of the news, I felt both excited and apprehensive about my new role. The VP of my group hand-picked me for the new team, which speaks well of my work and reputation, especially since I’ve been with the company for so short a time. I feel honored to be chosen for the job and trusted with some high-profile projects (even if I don’t know exactly what those projects will be yet!). And, since the market for electronic products just keeps growing, this change presents a lot of potential for career growth for me. Plus I’m genuinely interested in the practical details of how to go about developing these products! On the other hand, part of me is definitely nervous – I’ve been happy in my job here, for the first time in years! Why do we have to shake things up? Can’t everything just stay the same?

Whenever change comes, whether you expect it or not, it can be scary. Last fall when I accepted this job I was scared too, even though I knew the move was the right thing for me. From a yogic perspective, the thing to do at times like this is to stay calm: keep up with my yoga practice, focus on pranayama and deep breathing, and remind myself to stay in the present moment. I need to “reorganize” my own thoughts: it does me no good to worry, since I don’t know what the future holds. My job here has been great for me, but I can’t get so attached to it that I lose out on an opportunity to move forward. Staying calm and centered, keeping my attitude flexible, and practicing non-attachment will allow me to weather the change and be poised to make the most of it. This particular change provides a great opportunity for career growth, and like all change, it offers a chance of personal and spiritual growth as well. The change is happening whether I like it or not, so I might as well leap aboard!


Guest Post at 5 Cities 6 Women May 13, 2013

I’m happy to announce that I have a guest post up this week at one of my favorite blogs, 5 Cities 6 Women!

My post is about breastfeeding, pumping, and mom-life balance. It was fun to write a blog post and not feel like I somehow had to bring it around and relate it back to yoga and wellness. I hope you’ll go check it out, and while you’re there, take a look at what Katie and the other ladies are up to. There’s always something interesting happening at 5 Cities 6 Women.


Wellness and Work March 26, 2013

Filed under: reflections,wellness,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 12:16 pm
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Nursing for Wellness in Older Adults, by Carol MillerIn my new job, I have the opportunity to think about wellness surprisingly often: I was assigned as editor of the book Nursing for Wellness in Older Adults. It its current edition this book features a photo of a beautiful, relaxed, peaceful older woman doing a yoga pose (the entire editorial team agrees: we wish we knew this lady!). Just imagine how delighted I was to be assigned this book project the week I started my new job. Wellness for older adults is one of the reasons why I wanted to become a yoga teacher in the first place. Working on this book seemed like a cosmic sign that I’d made the right decision in leaving my old job, where my books were typically about surgically managing disease, but rarely about healing more than the physical. This is one reason why I think I’m much happier working on books for nurses rather than books for doctors or surgeons – although both groups work in the medical field, the nature of the work they do is fundamentally different, and the work of the nurse feels closer to my own calling as a yoga teacher and a karma yogini than that of the doctor.

Recently I’ve been pondering what the focus of this blog should be. I started the blog to write about my yoga teacher training experience; without that as an organizing principle, I’ve just been following the lead of the blog title, “Rox Does Yoga”, and writing about things that are related to yoga in some way, even if the relationship is only in my mind: sometimes yoga postures or breathing, sometimes meditation or spirituality, but often things like physical fitness, exercise, happiness, goals and resolutions, motherhood and parenting, vegetarianism, and even fantasy and science fiction every once in a while. But “Rox Does a Lot of Stuff That’s Sort of Tangentially Related to Yoga” just isn’t very catchy. I’d been fiddling with the wording on my About Me page for a while when it finally struck me: “wellness” is a perfect term to describe what I do here. Physically, wellness incorporates yoga, physical fitness, and other health-related topics, but it can also include spirituality, parenting and relationships, and my interest in happiness and, more recently, resolutions, because all of these things contribute to a person’s overall wellness. It took my work at my day job to bring this perfect word to mind. Hooray for cultivating wellness!


2012: Year in Review / 2013: Year in Preview January 15, 2013

Filed under: checking in,reflections,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:25 pm
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Last January, I set out a long and detailed list of goals. Looking back on that list, I kind of can’t believe that I even remotely considered all of those things to be possible when I started out 2012 four months pregnant. I wanted to keep up with all my interests and passions, keep moving my yoga career forward. I was so determined not to lose “myself” in having a baby. I had no idea, about so many things. I had no idea how much I would love being pregnant, or how active a state it is: that I could just sit there and be pregnant and I’d be totally busy. I had no idea how much rest I would need while I was pregnant, or how much energy and mobility I would lose. And I had no idea how drastically and irrevocably my life would change on July 8 when YogaBaby entered the world, how my priorities would instantly rearrange themselves around her. I realized last summer than I wasn’t in danger of losing “myself” in motherhood. Losing my free time and the ability to go out at night, sure. But “myself” is deeper and more confident and just MORE because of my love for her.

So, yeah, 2012 was a heck of a year. I gave birth. My child is still breathing, and despite all my fears and worries, I haven’t done anything to drastically harm her yet. In fact, she’s thriving, and smiling, and generally being awesome. And I learn new things about her, and about myself, every day.

But 2012 wasn’t just the year I became a parent. I published my first poetry chapbook! Which is a pretty big milestone – it just didn’t feel like it at the time, since my copies of the book arrived about a week after YB did. I also published three book reviews at good publications and had favorable responses to reviewing queries at others. I got solicited for poems for really the first time; the editor loved the work and one of the poems will be printed this year in a magazine that has probably a lot more readers than anywhere else I’ve ever published. And I managed to make some forward progress on the new poems – not as much as I would have liked, but under the circumstances I’ll take any forward progress as a success.

And 2012 was a good year for yoga. I taught prenatal yoga, which was unexpected and fantastic, and I taught at Awaken, which was a great opportunity at a great studio. I registered with Yoga Alliance, got my yoga Facebook page up and running, and kept this blog going, albeit at a much reduced pace. I didn’t meet my goal of reading one yoga-related book per month, or of following up on yoga book reviewing, but I did still read four books that related to my yoga goals, which isn’t too bad. My personal yoga practice disappeared for a while, which was sad but necessary, and I worked hard to find my yoga in other places and give myself the space to be imperfect.

So now it’s 2013. I’m at risk of setting another bunch of impossible goals for myself, but I do want to make a few resolutions. I want to get back some sort of a physical hatha yoga practice, and I’ve started steps to make that happen (they involve the alarm clock and YB sleeping well, so it’s kind of a shaky plan at best, but initial experiments are promising). I want to keep educating myself about yoga and spirituality, and I want to take some steps towards reestablishing myself as a yoga teacher, even just in my own mind. I want to keep recording my journey here and maybe try to be a bit more regular about it. Most important of all is that I want to be a good mother to YB. And taking care of myself, regaining some of my yoga and meditation practice -and continuing to give myself the space to be imperfect – is a crucial part of doing that.


Yoga Baby Debut July 17, 2012

Filed under: checking in — R. H. Ward @ 9:47 am
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My daughter's birthAs many of you know by now or may have guessed, I haven’t been around the blog lately because my daughter Freya was born last week. She’s pretty much awesome.

I may write more about the birth later, but here’s the fast version. I did get my natural childbirth, and compared to childbirths in the history of the world, and compared to childbirths experienced by many of my friends, this one was about as quick and easy as they come: 12 hours total from when I first suspected things might be happening to when my daughter was born. I was only at the Birth Center for about five hours before she was born, and only pushing for about two and a half hours, so it went really well. Compared to everything I’ve personally experienced in my life to date, however, this ranks as the worst night of my life, but around 4 am it was immediately followed by the most amazing morning of my life when I held my daughter for the first time. So I’m going to say it was well worth it.

This blog will be on hiatus for a little while. I don’t doubt that the tiniest yogini has plenty to teach me about yoga, but for now we’re really just spending time in the present moment and not worrying too much about typing it up.


2012: Year in Preview January 8, 2012

Last week, I looked back at 2011 to assess my progress and see how far I’ve come. Now it’s time to think ahead for the new year.

I definitely want to continue to pursue my yoga, to build myself as a business, to maintain the skills and knowledge I’ve built in the past year and keep growing. Here’s what I have planned:

  • Get registered with Yoga Alliance. (I started on this, and all I need to do to finish is to scan a copy of my graduation certificate to PDF, which I can hopefully get done this week.) After registering, look into yoga teacher insurance.
  • Turn this blog into an official website with a schedule and more information about me. Start a Facebook page for RoxDoesYoga separate from my personal FB to make it easier for yoga friends and potential students to find me.
  • Keep up my ties with EEY, the yoga center where I completed my training, by attending hatha yoga class there at least once per month. I also hope to attend any special events or workshops that come up, and teach as a sub there as opportunities arise.
  • Reach out to new studios and make connections with other local yoga teachers by attending at least one new yoga class per month. I’d love to start building a new yoga community a little closer to home than EEY and look into teaching opportunities with other yoga centers.
  • Keep teaching my weekly Front Porch Yoga class for private students at my home, at least for the next few months. This class will continue to be free, since these students are my friends and their interest in yoga and continued dedication to showing up at my house has provided me with invaluable teaching experience. For now, I really want to stay in practice as a teacher and not lose my confidence, and continuing the free Front Porch class will help me do that.
  • Begin exploring other yoga teaching opportunities. This is a little more vague, since I’m not sure what’s out there. Some ideas include teaching a discounted class for my neighbors at our town community center, or seeing if the dance studio in the next town over might be interested in starting a yoga program.
  • Continue to challenge myself with reading books on yoga and meditation, with a goal of one yoga-related book per month. Contact Yoga Journal and other related magazines to look into writing book reviews for publication.
  • Maintain my personal yoga practice. My goal is to fit in some sort of practice every day, whether it’s an hour-long class or three sun salutations. I want to work on practicing pranayama and meditation daily.
  • Continue this blog by posting 2-3 times per week. I figure all the goals and plans I’ve listed here will give me plenty to write about!
  • Look into and begin researching prenatal yoga.

Yeah, prenatal yoga. Because here at the yoga blog we’re expecting a yoga baby! For me, this makes the goals above even more important. I need to keep up my personal practice to get ready for giving birth and to keep my body healthy and strong as my pregnancy progresses. I need to rededicate myself to pranayama and meditation, in preparation for the birth but also to help me become the kind of mother I want to be. And I don’t want to give up my yoga dreams in the midst of fulfilling our dream of having a child. The baby’s scheduled for a July debut, so of course these plans and goals will get sidelined for a while mid-year, but I want 2012 to be a year with room for all the dreams.


2011: Year in Review January 5, 2012

Filed under: checking in,reflections — R. H. Ward @ 6:47 pm
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With the new year, I always like to take a little time to consider the year that’s just passed. Most of you know that 2011 was a big year for me. I started the year with the hope that I’d look into yoga teacher training programs, maybe buy a house with my husband, and try to write more. I managed to complete all of these things.

I not only looked into teacher training programs, I found one I liked, signed up, worked hard, and graduated. This fulfilled a goal I’d had for over five years, and I feel really proud not just of graduating, but of how hard I worked in the program and how much I learned, how much I drove myself to learn and make the most of the opportunity. I managed this even while my husband and I were buying our first home, moving and settling in. This was a huge step for us as a family, and all of it – from house shopping to inspection and settlement to moving and doing yardwork and making repairs – has been exciting, sometimes difficult, and usually time consuming. Yoga teacher training and the house together made this a big, challenging, and rewarding year.

Another major part of this year has been this blog. I started the blog in March 2011 with the idea that it would give me an outlet for my writing during a period when I wouldn’t have much time for my poetry and creative work, and that it might help me keep up with my teacher training homework assignments. Since then this blog has grown, and I’ve been really happy with how it’s helped me to work through many of the issues and lessons of this past year. I never really expected that many people would read this blog, but lots of you have found me, and getting to know you has been, well, really neat. It’s meant so much to me when you tell you’re out there reading this, that my words touched you or helped you or inspired you or just made you laugh. You’ve kept me honest and dedicated when I might have slacked off. I started this blog for myself, but now it’s just as much for you. That’s pretty cool.

For the new year, WordPress sent me some interesting blog stats that I thought I’d share. I made 198 posts: almost 20 posts a month, so on average I achieved my goal of posting 3-5 times per week. This blog was viewed 11,000 times, which isn’t insane or anything but sure isn’t bad for the first year. I’m kind of fascinated that a lot of people found my blog by searching for “yoga gorilla pose”. The full report can be viewed here.

Next time, I’ll look ahead to 2012 to plan and imagine what’s next for this blog and for me, in life and in yoga.


Aversions September 16, 2011

Filed under: reflections,yoga,yoga lifestyle — R. H. Ward @ 1:52 pm
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For our homework this month, we were instructed to make a list of our likes and dislikes, attachments and aversions. The purpose of this exercise isn’t to see if we like ice cream or whatever – we’re intended to look critically at ourselves, at the attachments and aversions that hold us back in our spiritual practice. Attachment and aversion are actually two of the kleshas, or obstacles to achieving enlightenment; when one is focused on enjoying pleasant experiences or avoiding unpleasant ones, then that person won’t be focused on meditation. Pleasant things come and go, and so do unpleasant things, but the true Self remains unchanging and unaffected by momentary events. Plus, even if you’re not worried about spirituality, it’s a good idea to examine your attachments and aversions: what’s really so great about this? what bothers me so much about that? The answers could be surprising!

Earlier this week I posted my list of attachments (here and here). Here’s my list of aversions, with some commentary about each one.


This is going to sound silly, but I hate the taste of broccoli. I read once that some people either have an extra enzyme or are missing an enzyme, and this makes certain foods (like broccoli) taste very differently than they do for most people. I am clearly one of those with weird taste buds, because I can’t find anything pleasant about broccoli. Further, I was forced to eat broccoli as a kid, and that experience has made a simple dislike deepen into true aversion (when I was 12 or so, I actually vomited after having to eat broccoli, and after that my mother never made me eat it again). So my experience with broccoli is both physical and psychological. I know that broccoli has a lot of nutritional value, but I just cannot bring myself to eat it, and I’ll actively and obsessively pick it out of any food I’m served.

Cold Weather

I hate being cold. The books we’ve been reading for teacher training all say that to the true yogi, heat and cold are the same, but I just can’t imagine getting to that point. Part of the problem is surely the lack of sunlight during the winter months – I feel cold and uncomfortable, and then without sunlight I just get depressed. I’ve started taking vitamin D supplements for this and it really does help. However, I really just don’t like being cold.

My Job

There are many things that I appreciate about my job. I’m paid well, I work with great people, my work is respected by my colleagues and I’m good at it, and my company gives back to the community, values its employees, and does provide a valuable service in the world. I’m grateful to even have a job at all in this economy, let alone a job as good as mine. However, I just don’t enjoy the work, and I never have in the five years I’ve worked here. I know that everybody hates their job sometimes and that I need to make the best of what I’ve got, but that’s just hard to do on Sunday nights and Monday mornings when I’m dreading going back to the office. When I imagine spending another five years in this job, I just feel bleak. I try to combat this by taking one day at a time instead of focusing on the long term, by focusing on all the wonderful non-job things in my life, and by trying to do my best at each task at the office regardless of how much I enjoy it.